Occasionally, someone will ask me questions like the following.
“Are you a foodie?”
“Are you a car guy?”
In true engineering (and perhaps anti-social) fashion, I often ask “How do you define ‘foodie'”? Because to me, the distinction is important.
I love the analogy of when people are asked to rate themselves on a scale of 1-10 of how fit they are. Inevitably they rate themselves around a 7 or so. Then they are asked to imagine themselves standing next to Lance Armstrong and rate themselves again. They end up in the 3 to 4 range.
True passions must involve a betterment of one’s self. And the bar must be high.
Let’s use food as an example. Some points on the range are:
- I don’t care what I eat at all
- I have eaten at some nice places, and actively seek out new experiences.
- I am a skilled chef. I regularly create new recipes, and evaluate other dishes in the context of my own creations.
I fall into the second category. Now, there is nothing wrong with the first two. We all have priorities, and not all interests can be elevated to expert levels. However, I hesitate to put a label on this (“foodie”) because I find it to be nothing to be proud of. Yes, I eat food. So what? Is that something I should be proud of? Of the many labels that I might define myself by, this is not one of them.
Consumption for consumption’s sake is akin to gluttony. It provides no lasting benefit to the world or to one’s psyche. Consumption combined with creation … now that is admirable. A talented chef who can create, consume, criticize and refine is leagues beyond me. He or she is more of a foodie that I would ever be. Indeed, I would be embarrassed to call myself a foodie in his or her presence, just as I would be embarrassed to call myself fit in Lance Armstrong’s presence.
My point is … when I evaluate for passion, I evaluate to see if one has done something unique with that passion. Either in terms of deconstruction of consumption back to modification, creation or enhancement of skill, or perhaps critique via compare and contrast methods to synthesize an opinion (which is another form of creation).
So here’s an exercise for the truly introspective. Stack rank the things you consider yourself truly passionate about … take the first three or so, and honestly ask yourself: Have I created, changed, or contributed anything to this category? Would I be perfectly OK and not embarrassed to stand next to an expert in this category and call myself truly passionate? If yes, great, and keep doing more of that. If no, then stand back, re-evaluate what passion really is to you, and ask how you can better yourself or the whole category with what you are doing.